cover image The Talent Thief

The Talent Thief

Alex Williams, Philomel, $16.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-399-25278-5

Generally finding an entertaining balance between goofy and sweet, Williams’s first novel (written and published in the U.K. before his 2008 U.S. debut, The Deep Freeze of Bartholomew Tullock) carves out a familiar path, examining the nature of talent and individuality. Twelve-year-old Adam Bloom is a normal child, living with his 16-year-old sister, Cressida (a skilled singer), and their lazy, grumpy uncle. When Cressida receives an invitation to the “Festival of Youthful Genius,” Adam tags along and discovers that the Festival is a trap: sneering villain Fontescue has tamed the titular creature and is using it to steal “spheres” of talent from attendees. Once he’s taken the talents of Cressida and others, he flees, pursued by the two children and Amy, a race car driver and earlier victim of the thief. As they chase down Fontescue, Adam slowly learns that, in spite of initial appearances, he might have some undiscovered talents of his own. Williams sometimes has trouble reining in his over-the-top supporting cast, but the story is well-written enough to carry the tale past its flaws, providing a light adventure. Ages 10–12. (June)